Drive Safely in a Haboob

Ric’s Body & Paint reminds you that monsoons have returned to Arizona, and that means you might end up experiencing a haboob sometime this summer. The word haboob derives from an Arabic word, “habb,” which translates to “wind.” A haboob is an intense wall of dust, formed during a thunderstorm when the storm collapses and wind gusts outwards in a rush. Cold air quickly moves downward and is pushed forward by the front of a thunderstorm cell, gathering dust as it travels across the land, obstructing visibility and even blocking out the sun. While haboobs occur in the deserts of Arabia and North Africa, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Arizona experiences an average of three haboobs each year. 

Haboobs can be a sight to behold. Picture a wall of dust stretching 100 miles across, that starts at a height of around 1,500 feet, and can quickly double in height. The infamous haboob that hit Arizona in July, 2011 grew to an astounding 5,000 feet as it made its way across the Valley; to put that in context, the Empire State Building is “only” 1,454 feet tall! 

As you might imagine, you definitely don’t want to be caught on the road when the next haboob strikes the Valley, plunging you from daylight to total darkness within a minute. While you may never experience it for yourself, you should be prepared for how to deal with a haboob. Here are some tips that could potentially save your life if you find yourself driving into an approaching haboob.  

  • Slow down and assess traffic around you. Act quickly to scout a path away from impending danger. Immediately close open windows and air vents, to prevent as much dust as possible from getting into your car. 
  • Pull off the road as soon as possible. Do not stop in the emergency lane – other vehicles might end up there and run into you. 
  • Once you’ve safely stopped, immediately turn off all lights, including emergency lights – inside and outside your vehicle. While this may seem counter-intuitive, you’ll be greatly reducing the chances of another vehicle rear-ending you. Activate your emergency brake, take your foot off the brakes, and keep your safety belt buckled. 
  • Listen to the radio for updates on the haboob. The Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) regularly updates stations on hazardous conditions on our roadways, and keeps drivers updated via overhead message boards and social media.
  • Once you’ve determined the storm has passed, use caution when you return to the roadway. 

Of course, it’s always a good idea to check weather and road conditions before you head out to drive anywhere. The best way to not be caught in a haboob is to avoid it in the first place, and always make sure you have a well-stocked emergency kit in your vehicle.

If you’re unlucky enough to be caught in a haboob or your vehicle is damaged by any other type of storms this summer, contact Ric’s Body & Paint. For more than 40 years, we’ve been the Valley’s go-to shop for top-quality repairs and excellent service. At Ric’s, we make getting you back on the road as painless as possible.

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